IoP Alliance community roles & positions

Since the beginning of the year, the IoP Alliance working groups and task forces (to be added: link to an overview of the governance process) have been scheduling regular work sessions and defining their roadmaps, generally getting active and productive.

In several of those groups, the question of electing or re-electing a chair has come up and therefore the question “well, hum, what is the role of a chair?” needs to be answered more clearly.

Here is a draft that the secretariat (the team hired by the IoP Alliance to support the work the community does) has prepared.

This document currently includes the drafts for 3 roles that exist already exist de facto in the IoP Alliance without having been systematically formalised.

  1. Chair of an established working group
  2. Driver of a task force
  3. Secretariat of either of the above

Please do comment, here or on the document itself. It is on the IoP’s pubpub platform which enables collaboration around text documents in a public way with proper versioning*

*Curious about the IoP Alliance set of community tools? Join us for our webinar on this topic on July 25th. Registration opens soon

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Trying to absorb the current culture of IoP… Also trying to find some roles for myself in the group so that I can be efficient and productive, because I see a lot of synergy between my work with Sensorica and IoP. I am going to make some comments here in order to bridge the two cultures. We’ll see if some cross-pollination occurs, if beneficial. If IoP wants to become more open we can work on harmonizing organizational structure and processes with open organizations. Also, using the open language can help attract more individuals from the open culture to participate. In any case, I think that we need to find a balance between the institutional world and the open world to have IoP bridge the two, position itself as an interface between academia and open communities for example. Otherwise it will be pretty hard to stimulate wide scale adoption of the standards produced by IoP by open communities.

Seen from the perspective of our culture and organizational framework (open and collaborative networks) these “roles” look like positions. This idea is also enforced by the following formula: “The X is elected by a Y”, which refers to an appointment process and alludes to the idea of permanency (occupying the position for an extended period). In the open world, some communities operate on do-ocracy , which means that those who exercise a set of functions are de-facto occupying a role, which is the aggregate of these functions. Other communities operate on meritocracy and the allocation of individuals to roles (some of which are listed, defined) is done based on past participation, built trust, skin in the game. In both cases, people are not elected or appointed to roles they simply gain access to roles either by doing or by doing enough of something.

Another difference between the open culture and IoP’s current culture is that roles are considered network-wide, not anchored in a specific area of activities (a department in a company or university for example). Thus, someone who does outreach (content production, social media posting, blogging, vlogging, etc.) is recognized by everyone in all domains of activity and can be called in to perform tasks by anyone. That is compatible with the fluid nature of open networks and communities, the unhindered flow of resources across the network, the intense crosspolination and the recycling and remixing of content from one context to another, etc, This stands in contrast to the compartmentalized nature of traditional organizations and the high redundancy levels that they exhibit.

For comparison, here is how we define roles in Sensorica. Anyone who is recognized in a role (based on records of past contributions) can perform in any project / venture (context of activity). So we cut it differently.

The question is what do we want to achieve and what’s the best way to achieve it? It relates to organizational structure, governance, methodologies of work and infrastructure, which are all interrelated. Speaking about interrelations, the roles defined by Sensorica cannot lead to success if the infrastructure doesn’t allow visibility into different domains of activity, if the methodology of work doesn’t prescribe standard processes to make it easier from someone to jump from one context of work to another, if the rules don’t allow easy migration from one context of work to another, etc. We’re talking about organizational paradigms, which come with their own logic and one thing cannot be simply transplanted from one paradigm to the other. That’s why I think that we need to address the meta question about governance, which is what organizational paradigm do we subscribe to?
Paradigms do not mix… But if we want IoP to be a bridge / interface between the institutional and the open worlds we can engineer that by creating the IoP as an organizational ecosystem, some organizations subscribing to the institutional world (perhaps the Foundations / non-profit, interface with academia and government) and an open network (locus of open innovation, co-creation of standards, federated makerspaces, etc.). To that we can also add for-profit organizations if there is a need to interface with the market. All these organizations would have their own governance. Then, I have some experience with building bridges between these organizations of different type, subscribing to different paradigms. But in my opinion it is pretty difficult to lump all that functionality into one organization.


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Hi there! Thanks for the indepth thoughts and links.

A quick question to help me reflect on the 2 cultures and what you have written above: you distinguish positions and roles. Where/when do positions come in?

For example, in another conversation, you were talking about “financial resources available (for a position) to facilitate / coordinate the formation of a group to work on this, animate some activities, set up tools and processes for open collaboration”.
The case where we do have funding for a while to fund a community lead/chair, especially for a nascent community, exploring a new topic for the IOPA, is is a situation that arises regularly (thank you fundraising task force!). 2 such positions are actually about to be sent out via the newsletter this week.

The role descriptions in the pub this conversation is about do refer to roles that are not funded, because they’ve entered a phase where the sustainability of the work is volunteer-driven, so maybe that’s the distinction?

Yes, we had that too… When we get funding from a traditional organization it may come with governance and management requirements. In a project funded by the government we also had to report on the jobs created and even provide the name the individuals appointed to various positions and their salary. For us it was a disaster, because those who occupied these paid positions were also involved in voluntary roles. But they didn’t play well between the two. They took the independence and flexibility of work from the open culture (in voluntary roles) and applied that to their positions. It was pretty hard to “force” them to do their tasks on time based on centrally planned work. But the salary came in weekly anyway and they were using some of the paid time to do other things in Sensorica. Hard to keep them in one place :slight_smile:

There are a few ways to cut it though…

We create a non-profit organization that manages the budget and provides support. Support activities are defined as positions within the non-profit, not in the open network. So there is a clear delineation between the open network and the non-profit. The problem with this approach is that some individuals in the open network can be jealous. That’s the problem of mixing the two cultures, but it can be explained. Non-profit organizations that manage volunteers justify that by the need to ensure continuity of activities, as someone paid can be coerced to perform. A volunteer can decide anytime not to contribute anymore. It works, because these volunteers to social or environmental causes don’t think like people in open networks.

Another approach is what we usually do in Sensorica. We divide the budget into Work Packages with objectives and do some planning of activities / tasks, which have suggested budgets as well, a portion of the WP budget. Then we make a call for participation to the network. People take tasks based on their skills, log their activities in the NRP-CAS (network resource planning and benefit redistribution system) and they get paid on work done (not a fixed weekly salary, but based on logged contributions). Logs are peer reviewed. There is no requirement to approve every log. A log is a claim, not a contribution. We have a red flag rule, i.e. anyone can question a log. If no one red flags logs before payment is done, they becomes contributions and get rewarded. We also have a strong rule of non-monopolizing a task. In other words, I can chose to work on something and someone else can come and collaborate with me on the same task. Taking a task is not exclusive, to encourage collaboration and diffuse any competition among contributors for paid tasks. If 2 individuals work on a task they finish it faster and they can move on to something else. The same amount should be paid for that task, that goes to one individual or it is split among collaborators. When planning, tasks are allocated a suggestive budget from the budget of the WP. Since we have access to past participation we know who’s capable of doing what, see example.

Yet another way used in DAOs is to use a bounties - see Comakery. Core members define tasks, allocate a bounty to every task and people take them based on their skills. Once the task is completed it needs to be approved by core members before the payment is made.

In the DAO space proposals are also popular. Members define a mission, anyone can submit a proposal (with a budget) that takes the venture closer to the goals. Proposals are analyzed and if granted the budget is allocated to the team that submitted, they do the work and manage their own funds, with some oversight from core members.

Both those DAO practices (bounty and proposals) share the same problem of encouraging competition among members. This is not the case the OVNs / Sensoroica. On the other side, the OVN / Sensorica model suffers from another problem, which is that some important roles don’t get filled, because they are not fun or not enough people around.
Also, the bounty approach shifts the load to core members to solve the planning (definition of tasks) and the allocation problem (who to chose to take and monopolize the task). That is somewhat the case on the OVN approach, but not so much, because the planning is more agile and we also rely on stigmergy. The proposal approach pushes that load to the edge of the network, people define tasks that further the mission of the organization. That’s good, but it doesn’t work well for technical development where a highly integrated method with strict time dependencies is required.

So every approach has its pros and cons. It all depends on the context.

The DAO and OVN approach may not be compatible with government grants and contracts for example, if there is a requirement to detail spending in a traditional way. But you can put a smokescreen in front of these institutions again, by interfacing via a non-profit organization. It’s like taking a grant and using it to manage volunteers, but in this case you reserve a budget to distribute it to network contributors (proposals, bounty or the participatory / collaborative approach of OVNs). The financial mechanism to do that is called fiscal sponsorship. So this would be a mixed approach and some part of the budget can go to the staff of the non-profit for important support roles that require high responsibility and commitment.

@BarbaraSchack I also want to mention that NLNet uses fiscal sponsorship like in my last suggestion, to distribute funds as donations to individuals and informal groups of hackers who help developing the Next Generation Internet, under the Horizon 2020 NGI program of the European Commission. In other words, this practice is already established in the EU and accepted by the EC. In fact, their funds distribution scheme and their methods to interface with open networks and communities is highly prized by the NGI team, because their results in terms of impact is by far superior to any other consortium involved in the NGI program. I know very well the methodology for the cascade funding NGI program, I can provide more details about it, if needed.

A lot to process here. It’s good timing as we re-boot the governance and set-up the first legal entities!


  • NLNet already funds some of the IoP infrastructure R&D via one of the IOPA members: Kitspace. @kaspar leads that work!
  • The Horizon 2020 NGI program of the European Commission also funds some of the IoP infrastructure R&D via a consortium led by Open Source Ecology (which has an overlap with the IoPA community particularly with the Open Know-How community).

In a nutshell: the model you describe above of fiscal sponsorship is indeed what has gotten us this far! It is also what has lead to the first recruitment of a secretariat (The Sloan Foundation grant had Field Ready as fiscal sponsor.). Great to hear it validated in your post.

It is however a lot of administration to navigate between several fiscal sponsors, which led to exploring the creation of foundations dedicated to this role of fiscal sponsorship of the projects building an IoP. I suggest that any further on this should be done in another discussion topic as we’re loosing sight of the initial purpose of the thread! :smiley:

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